The high cost of rising home values

As a result, long-time residents are concerned that property tax assessments have also increased.

Acconcia, the president of the York Mills Valley Association residents group, has appealed one assessment already and received a small abatement.

“It’s a small victory, because you have to do it all over again when they come back in the next four years,” she said.

Developer Michael Chung, general manager of family-owned firm Berkfife Ltd., says prices of bungalows in some areas of the city are now so high that it’s not profitable to build on them.

Bungalows that could be purchased for $400,000 to 500,000 and severed into two lots are now costing anywhere from $750,000 and up, said Chung.

“The land value is driving prices, but there isn’t much profit at the end of the day if you have to pay that money.”

There is such a shortage of lots that Chung has had an agent do cold calls, knocking on doors of dozens of homes asking residents if they want to sell.

“We’ve gone across the city and back from Etobicoke, to Central Toronto to Scarborough. People have been sitting on their properties because they have become gold mines.”

Acconcia has had developers ask if she wants to sell. But she’s not leaving her beloved Hogg’s Hollow anytime soon.

“I grew up here and I really love the area,” she said. “I can’t think of living anywhere else.”

Whether it is in Hogg’s Hollow or in the increasingly gentrified neighbourhood that Donia lives in, residents say the assessment process can be mystifying. But that hasn’t stopped them from appealing.

Despite a heart condition and the onset of Parkinson’s disease, Donia has invested hundreds of hours trying to figure out her taxes.

She has stacks of boxes containing documents related to her battles over the years to have her taxes reduced. But this year was different. She considered an appeal, but decided against it because she wasn’t feeling well.

“I can’t fight them anymore,” she said. “I just don’t have the strength.”

Donia said she doesn’t understand why she paid $1,219 in tax in 1998, and then had to pay $3,156 in 2010 for a house that is less than 14 feet wide, with virtually no renovations since she’s owned it.

“That’s a lot of money for me. I don’t go out to eat, I cook everything, I do everything for myself. Every time I think about it I am shaking. I am so upset.”

CARP’s Eng says Donia is not alone. Her membership is also worried about how their assessments are being handled.

“Their anger is directed at not only the absolute increases, but also the manner in which the increases occur, the seeming arbitrariness of the assessment process at MPAC and the seeming lack of recourse.”

In December the Ontario Auditor General blasted MPAC for out-of-date valuations, with homeowners paying too much or too little in taxes. The selling price of one in eight of the 11,500 homes the Auditor General looked at had a 20 per cent difference compared with the market value assessment, because of outdated information.